Forgiveness is probably one of the most difficult yet important themes in our lives and world. We all know that we need it and need to offer it, but it is so hard to actually give it.
Many of us have heard that forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning what someone did to us, saying “That’s okay,” when it really wasn’t. We’ve heard sermons or other messages explaining that forgiveness is the act of letting go of the “right” or need to keep punishing the offender in our hearts. (Justice is a separate issue that I won’t be addressing here; I’ll be focusing on the relationships or heart matters.) We know that if we don’t offer it, we’ll be eaten up with bitterness on the inside. Even Don Henley acknowledges this in his ‘80s pop song “The Heart of the Matter”:
If you keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside, baby…
I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me
But is this all there is to it? Just a simple letting go, and suddenly our hearts are healed? Is it only for our own sake? I think there’s more to it than this.
First of all, it is not so simple. Sometimes it is: a misunderstanding gets explained, an apology soothes the hurt feelings, and reconciliation is swift and sweet. But other times, a wound runs too deep to be able to forgive quickly. It takes time and wise counsel, even professional counseling or therapy. And for many of us, these take more than we have in us to forgive at all.
This is when we cross into the realm of miracles. Yes, I believe in them. And I believe the greatest miracles of all are the ones where God’s power heals the hurt in us so we can forgive, and that power then touches the person who has been forgiven, and His glory is known. These are the stories that change the world.
A person very close to me challenged me last year to show proof of a couple things. One was miracles themselves. He wanted video proof. And the other was proof that love is more than just a chemical reaction to people. He informed me of Oxytocin, a chemical in our brain that causes us to feel feelings of love toward people.
I reflected on miracles and researched Oxytocin. As far as I can tell, it only accounts for love toward people that we want to love, like family, friends, and people we are romantically attached to. It doesn’t account for love toward strangers, like Mother Teresa helping lepers in India. Of course, that can be explained scientifically by the positive feelings we get from helping others.
But love for our enemies? I found no scientific explanation that can account for that. As far as I can tell, only God’s powerful love in us can cause us to pray for, forgive, and show love to our enemies. Corrie ten Boom writes in multiple books of hers how men who had been cruel guards to her in the Nazi concentration camps later went to hear her speak. They begged her for forgiveness. She momentarily had to fight her human nature of anger, and then God’s grace always won out, and she freely forgave them, causing them to weep. I’m sure that their lives, and anyone who witnessed this, were changed forever.
I know of a personal example of this, of a man in a country that is not open to the Good News seeing two Christian men reconcile with forgiveness after a deep wound between them. To protect him, I can’t say more specifically in this public post, but his life was changed dramatically after he saw this.
But I will offer the video below instead. This is the greatest (believable!) video evidence I can find of the power of God causing a miracle. I know it is a miracle because I don’t know a single person who has it in themselves to forgive this.
Now it is up to us. Who do you still need to forgive? It may be a long process, and you are only able to get a little closer to full forgiveness. Me, I’m still working on one. I keep thinking I’ve forgiven this person over the years, but it caused lasting damage, and he is a person that is not healthy for me to get in contact with to talk and get closure. So I’ll keep chipping away at it. Praying for healing, for wisdom, and for the power to forgive completely. Because I can’t do it on my own. And maybe, in time, it will be right for me to talk to this person and offer the healing that forgiveness does.
About the Author
Jessie is an educator, currently in the role of academic advisor at a charter school after teaching there and overseas. She is also a novice writer, with several books in various stages and a (long-neglected) blog about the journeys of women. She is very excited to join the CitySalt blog team. She has been blessed by a few communities of Christian writers that have encouraged her dream. She lives with her trusty sidekick cat, Arwen in the foothills of South Eugene, where she can go hiking within minutes of the sun coming out from behind the clouds.